The Next Generation of Web Design

Duccio [Public domain or Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons

The Calling of the Apostles Peter and Andrew, 1308/1311

Before the Renaissance, there was no such thing as visual perspective in art. Humans were portrayed as the same size, regardless of their distance from each other, and images looked flat. This was the standard for art at the time, and it wasn’t really questioned.

From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

The School of Athens, Raphael, 1511

But when the first artists started discovering and giving form to the rules of perspective, paintings and drawing began to look a lot different. Landscapes receded into the distance, forms gained dimension, and figures looked far more realistic. A drawing that would have been considered amazing a few hundred years earlier was no longer up to date; viewers began expecting to see these new adaptations.

Web design develops in a similar fashion. As technology moves forward, we discover new ways to enhance the user’s experience and simplify the overall process. One designer makes an amazing innovation, and soon other sites will follow – not because they’re trying to copy, but because visitors come to expect that ease of use.

The Responsive Era

Apple screenshot from 1996

Apple screenshot from 1996

Once upon a time, nearly every site had a solid color, left-hand side bar with a basic navigation. Even Apple sported the look. But technology changed, and sites started to look a lot different. Designs became cleaner, and page layouts changed to lead the eye to important areas. Known as Web 2.0, the idea was to achieve your goal with a design that focused on the “re” launch of the web after the dot-com bubble bursted.

The current trend is responsive design. Think Google or Apple’s current design – lots of white space, plain colors, and simple grids, with few borders or distracting elements. Why are these designs so popular? Two words: mobile devices.

Between smartphones, tablets, and wide-screen TVs hooked up to your computer, there’s no way to know what kind of screen your visitors will be using. This means that your site has to look good, no matter what shape or size it’s displayed on. It turns out that plain, simple rectangles fit that bill perfectly. The grid can be adjusted depending on the browsers size, but the content remains accessible either way.

This responsive layout based on an initial grid of four boxes.

This responsive layout based on an initial grid of four boxes.

Responsive design isn’t a handicap – far from it. The focus is on functionality, but there’s also room for style and fun. Check out this innovative design by Issac Montemayer: The boxes in the layout are flexible, and the transitions are fun and seamless, making his design fun to click through on any device.

It’s important to remember that this trend is about usability, and not necessarily about copying the same look across every site you make. Advancing a field means taking the current, accepted way of doing things and building on it until you’ve found something that accomplishes the next goal.

Web 3.0?

We’re a little hesitant to call this style of design Web 3.0, since that term encompasses far more than the look of a site. But the future of design seems to be headed even further towards simplicity. And as the technology we use to view the internet advances, so will the designs we see.


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